When I was growing up, I was given a spiritual gifts test. I didn’t study for it, but I aced. I got the best gifts. How did I know they were the best? Because they were exactly the things that I cared most about.
Then, I was told how to use those gifts to volunteer in the various church programs. I thanked God that day that “Nursery” did not show up in my list of possible jobs. But, unfortunately, I was actually too young to do anything that was on the list. So, I could look forward to the day when I grew up and I could finally use my spiritual gifts.
Someone told me about an opportunity to serve someone, but I informed that person that service was not my spiritual gift. I encouraged him to ask someone with the more appropriate spiritual gift. Service was not my responsibility.
There was another opportunity to help someone with administration. No. Trust me. I am not gifted in administration. Someone with that spiritual gift should handle that problem.
Meanwhile, I would wait for an opportunity to teach. I mean, I was gifted by the Holy Spirit of God in teaching, so that’s what I was going to do. Eventually. One day. I mean, when I got older.
Oh, but then an opportunity presented itself! It wasn’t like an official position in the church; not even a small group or Bible study leader. But, there was someone who needed teaching. It was obvious this person needed teaching, and I was a teacher. So I jumped in and pointed out where this person was wrong, and I set them straight. I was teaching. It was so exciting. (That person didn’t talk to me much after that though…)
Sure, the examples above are hyperbolic, and exaggerated, and fiction (sort of). But, they demonstrate the way that I typically hear people explain spiritual gifts. When someone has a certain spiritual gift, they then have a license to function in that way, and an excuse not to function in any other ways.
But, when I read Scripture, that’s not the distinction that I read. Yes, people have one or more spiritual gifts. And, of course, people who are gifted in a certain way should function in that way – in love, for the purpose of building up others, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But, guess what? According to the authors of Scripture, that same person should also function in other ways as well.
I mean, we know this about the “lesser” spiritual gifts like service, helps, encouragement, giving, etc. We may even add evangelism to that list of spiritual gifts that all followers of Jesus are responsible (and privileged) to do.
But, what about teaching? No. Leave that for the teachers. Prophecy? That’s just for the prophets. Pastoring? Of course, only the pastors are supposed to pastor (shepherd).
But, what if we actually thought that God could use us to do any of those things… even if we are not specifically “gifted” in that way?
I think we would see a different church… one that’s closer to what we read about in Scripture… a church that would be more focused on what God could do through us for the sake of others instead of focused on what we can do.